Thursday, December 15, 2011

Family Preservation

Adoption has shaped my life, from my very first breaths until the current day. I am an adoptee, an adoptive mom, and an adoption blogger. I think about adoption and its implications every day. And I am going to tell you something that will surprise some of you and will not surprise others at all. I do not love adoption.

There have been some fabulous conversations in blogland this week as a result of this post and responses to it, such as this one and this one. There have also been some hurtful things said.

There's a lot that I could write in response to all of this, and I may try to write more later, but for now I am motivated to try to briefly formulate my own statement of beliefs.

I advocate for open adoption because I believe that if adoption happens, it is absolutely essential to the psychological well-being of the child that some form of connection to the biological family be maintained. But I also believe adoptions should happen less frequently than they do. I believe stronger efforts are needed to keep biological families together whenever possible. I believe that, as a culture and a society, we are too quick to rush to adoption as a solution before exploring other options, and I believe that this failing is rooted in a common misconception: biology doesn't matter. But biology does matter. The bond between a child and her biological family is real, and anytime that bond is severed, whether in infancy or in a later stage of childhood, there is pain and trauma.

Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, shouting this into the wind: Biology matters. Biology matters. Biology matters. The words come back to me, unheard. But I will keep shouting.


21 comments:

  1. I said "unheard," but I'm actually aware that there are some who do hear my words, and I appreciate you! Also, I am increasingly aware that I am not alone on this cliff. I have lots of companions, and I appreciate all of you, too!

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  2. I think of you sitting on the couch next to me last summer, your brother across from us. We cross our legs at the same time. We sit the same way. The first time we had you with us, he was a young teenager and as I listened to you talk to each other, I thought, "Wow. If they had been raised together, they would have had a secret language, they are so much alike." Thank you for sharing the articles this week. As I've told you, it's so good to read other people saying what I have said for years: Adoption should be a last resort.

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  3. As a prospective adoptive parent, I have to admit that when I first considered adoption I really had no idea what a complicated issue it is. I really appreciate that you're using your wealth of personal experience and knowledge to shed light on the whole picture of what adoption entails. I'm humbled that you would consider my blog post to be part of a "fabulous conversation," and I hope the conversation continues...

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  4. And he laughs. And one of us says "genetic mirroring."
    Which reminds me ... got to send C a link to an article I just read.

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  5. Thanks, Anna. I agree - the more conversation the better, IMHO. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your openness to considering things from a different point of view.

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  6. I couldn't agree with you more. Biology DOES matter. It's why the majority of adoptive parents first spend ample amounts of time and money on fertility treatments. It's why the vast majority of people in general don't even consider adoption - they want "their own." And it's why millions of adoptees seek to know the truth of their origins. Not for medical history, but because biology matters.

    I wish this country would be more like Australia in this respect - very few adoptions happen there any more, because the country has put families first. The way it should be.

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  7. Rebecca,
    I have been scared away by so many adoptive parents, especially the adoptees that adopt. But you are different. You walk the walk of family preservation. You deal with your own adoption pain and allow your children to deal with theirs. You never preyed upon other woman for there wet from the womb infants. I love that you allow your daughter time with her mother. Time to build that relationship up seperate from your relationship with them. I know so many adoptive parents in the real world that I just want to shake and say "Why can't you be more like Rebecca, adoption is not just about you but about your children and their families too." Rebecca as a mom who lost 2 to adoption (daughter and grandson) and I am watching my grandsons adoption close, thank you for doing everything you do. I adore you!!!

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  8. I, too, was like you Anna! so naive about how wonderful it would all be. It is wonderful, but heartbreaking and earth shattering! I'd love to adopt again, but my thinking has transformed to more like your's, rebecca. I'm sooo torn about where to go from here. I've talked to our son's birth mom a lot about it. She still holds to the fact that she had no other option and that there has to be people out there like her, and that they need us as an option to place.

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  9. this is amber from http://bumbersbumblings.blogspot.com/, by the way. Can never get my name to post right on your blog ;)

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  10. Rebecca - I do love this post but as a birthmom I have to say that I am so very grateful for the option of adoption and the amazing parents my son now has. I was sexually assaulted while I was a sophomore in college and became pregnant as a result. I knew how I wanted to raise my child and that was not it. We have had a very open adoption with him and he is a wonderful young man and, I think, very well adjusted. It was absolutely THE BEST outcome for a really crappy situation. Sometimes adoption is necessary. However, if the mother wishes to parent her child then her family and community and, in my opinion (as a pastor's wife), the church need to offer the support that she needs to succeed...in an ideal world. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. There are children around the world who *need* parents. Thousands of children are orphaned because of AIDS. There is an entire missing generation in Africa. There is no one left to care for these kids other than potential adoptive parents. While family preservation should be sought when possible, in many cases it is simply not an option. I'm not sure why family preservation vs. adoption is so polarizing and why there is a need for blanket policies on either side. I find it a shame in Australia that there is not an acceptance of adoption as a valid option. There are people there who are willing to adopt children with the most dire special needs but the gov't won't allow it because of their anti-adoption views. They have tens of thousands of kids floundering in their foster care systems because adoption is frowned upon. It seems like they are starting at the wrong end of the problem.

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  11. Thanks, Kim. I don't necessarily disagree with you. Please note that I said I believed there should fewer adoptions, not no adoptions. I agree with you that it's a both/and situation, not an either/or situation. I'm not anti-adoption, but I'm aware that there are lots of birth moms who would choose to parent if they could see a viable way to do so -- if they had a support system -- and who are instead pressured to relinquish. I'd like for those moms to have more real options. I can't speak with any authority about Australia, but I'm aware that in the US we have a huge crisis in terms of kids aging out of foster care without finding permanency in adoptive homes. I wholeheartedly support the efforts of groups like the Dave Thomas Foundation to find permanent homes for foster children, but I also believe more efforts are needed to prevent so many kids from ending up in foster care to begin with. We need to attack the problem from both ends.

    I'm an adoptive mom and an open adoption advocate, but this post was my place to say that adoption is not, and should not be, the only answer. And things are little of balance as they currently stand. There's an adoption awareness month, but no family preservation month. Search the "adoption" hashtag on twitter and you'll get lots of results; #familypreservation, not so much.

    I'm not out to eliminate adoption, but I do believe that family preservation should be a more central part of the conversation.

    I hope this makes sense.

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  12. Thanks, Jeannette! This is so nice to read!

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  13. Thanks. Yes, we have been kind of echoing each other this week. Or I've been echoing you rather ... but only because you so eloquently stated something that's been on my mind.

    That said, my husband is an amazing dad, though he has no biological children. My ex (biodad of my older daughter) ... well, let's just say he had good genes and leave it at that. And you and I have both acknowledged that we had great adoptive parents. I acknowledge that biology isn't everything, but (especially from the point of view of the child) it still needs to be a part of the equation! Things get all out of whack when we try to discount it altogether.

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  14. Thanks, Amber. I actually want to write more in reply to this, but the girls need dinner, etc. I'll try to get back to it later.

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  15. Absolutely. And, I didn't hear you say that you were anti-adoption...clearly you are not! :-) I was just thinking out loud about the issues that arise when organizations and countries take a hard line in one direction or another. There is a small model in Haiti right now that I find to be most encouraging. Heartline Ministries has a maternity home and birthing center. It really is a wonderful program where they teach the women proper prenatal care and see them through their birth and post-partum, up to a year, I think. In Haiti, particularly since the earthquake, there is a crisis of parents who see no way out of the poverty (90% unemployment) and sadly seeing orphanages as an option for their kids to have what they think will be a better life. Maybe if there were more organizations like Heartline there would be more mothers who saw hope in their situations. Amazima Ministries in Uganda teaches women a trade and gives small business loans so the women can make a living and take care of their babies. If the church were that involved here instead of relying on our gov't perhaps we would have better outcomes for parents who want to raise their kids. Instead we place sometimes unrealistic expectations on young, inexperienced and/or uneducated parents and then sit back, waiting for them to fail and their kids are just collateral damage. Again, just pondering out loud.

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  16. I've been shouting too as have many others.At least we are all here on this cliff top together now and not shouting alone.

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  17. Indeed. I appreciate the companionship!

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  18. still interested to hear your reply, Rebecca :)

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  19. Hi Amber. Just a quick note here to let you know I haven't forgotten you ... or this issue! My offline life has taken priority in recent weeks, with the holidays, etc., but your comments are still on my mind and I will get back to them soon! :-)

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  20. OK, here I go. I think I understand what your son's bmom is saying. In our current social structure, adoption exists and is likely to continue to exist for a while. It is my hope/dream that, in the future, moms faced with unplanned pregnancies will have more options ... more resources available to them so that if they want to actively parent they can do so. But that's not the current situation for many women today. It doesn't serve those women, or their children, if the prospective adoptive parents like you -- the ones who understand the importance of maintaining the child's connect to his or her biological family -- jump ship. The main reason I write is not necessarily to discourage adoptions but rather to try to help adoptive parents be more effective. So, the short answer is that if adoptions are going to happen, I want people like you to be ones doing the adopting!

    That said, for me, the answer is a little different ... but so is my situation. I doubt I will adopt again. I am 45. I have two tween children. My main goal in the immediate years to come is to do everything in my power to successfully launch these two into the world. When I find myself with that empty nest, I may very well decide to use my energy and resources to help another child, but not by adopting in the usual sense. I'd like to find a different way ... more of a grandmotherly role. I spoke above of how some bmoms might choose to parent if they had more resources. I'd like to find a way to be a resource. Or, I could see myself becoming a foster parent again, but I would want to be in a situation where there was a strong chance of reunification and in which I could be a resource to the whole family. In other words, I'd like to "adopt" a mother and child, supporting them both. This is something that Erica (Ashley's bmom) and I have both talked about a lot. It is a dream that we both share. Our current focus at Ashley's Moms (www.ashleysmoms.org) is on open adoption, but eventually we also hope to create some programs that support family preservation.

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